It was honestly one of the most majestic sights I’ve ever seen. We’d been to Astoria before and seen sea lions, but never like this. An entire pier covered with them, with more swimming in the water looking for a place to fit in. A deafening cacophony of barking, grunting and roaring. On Sunday, we stood in the rain for almost an hour watching them, enjoying the sights and sounds of these beautiful creatures at play.
As it turns out, the tiny harbor in Astoria is a perfect place for sea lions. The water is the right temperature, there’s an abundance of easily caught salmon and an absence of natural predators. For the sea lions this harbor and these piers are pretty much everything they could hope for. For the people of Astoria, not so much.
See, the docks weren’t made to hold hundreds of sea lions. And with the sea lion population exploding (partially due to them having such a cushy place to camp out) the docks are getting overwhelmed and suffering damage. Meanwhile, nobody can actually use the piers to dock their boats at once the sea lions have taken over. No boats docking means no mooring fees which means lost revenue for the port. This is where the story gets a bit hilarious.
Apparently, in their efforts to scare the sea lions away, there have been a few unsuccessful attempts.
First, they tried a fake orca whale:
When that failed, they got even more creative:
Happily, neither effort has lasted and the sea lions appear to have won for now, which is fine with me.
All of this left me wondering if this isn’t how some of our churches are. Full of people being happily fed and enjoying each other’s company, without any fear of or concern for the outside world. How often are our church leaders looking for new ways to startle people out of their complacency and get them off the docks so to speak? No matter how flashy our air dancers end up being, somehow the docks keep filling back up.
And maybe that’s okay. The more of life I experience, the less I think that faith and spirituality is about doing and the more I think it’s about patterns of being. It has to be integrated into the rhythms of everyday life, not marked on a calendar as a set-aside time. Scripture talks so much about the Christian life as a whole, all-encompassing thing- from the Acts 2 church living and sharing together, to the Great Commission to make disciples “as you go”, to the instruction to “live at peace with everyone”. There’s so much good when you start to unpack these things from a weekly calendar appointment with God and let them start to take over every corner of life.
In a lot of ways I think I’ve gone from being a sea lion on the dock of the church to letting the dock of my life be overwhelmed with the sea lions of God. And while that might be the silliest analogy I’ve made in a long time, I also think it might be one of the truest.